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Vapor-Induced 3D Printing Opens New Avenues for Real-world Applications

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Vapor Induced Printing

The world of 3D printing continues to evolve in its capabilities and processes. A recent study by engineers from the University of Florida published in Natural Communications pushes this technology even further. The report details a new method of vapor-induced 3D printing that is both more economical and sustainable than the current methods. Here's what you need to know.

New 3D Printing Method

The new method called vapor-induced phase-separation 3D printing (VIPS-3D) promises to provide new capabilities while reducing costs for manufacturers. This new approach to 3D printing enables manufacturers to build more complex shapes using multiple materials including polymers, composites, and metals.

The University of Florida engineers used a new approach and chemicals to accomplish these tasks. The process began with researchers deciding on what 3D printing process to enhance. There are different methods and materials used in these applications and the researchers wanted to create a method of 3D printing that supported varying levels of porousness.

There are many use cases where porous materials are crucial. They are often more stable, lightweight, and use less material. As such, this sector of the 3D printing market has long been a focus of researchers seeking to improve operations. Here's how this team of ingenuitive minds made it possible to print complex porous ceramic and metal shapes.

How VIPS-3D Works

The vapor-induced printing process used to enable this method of 3D printing is called non-solvent-induced phase separation (NIPS). It works by using a 3D polymer and composite materials to print. A nebulized non-solvent is used to dissolve polymer-based ink from the printed item as part of this process.

3D Printer Using Metal

3D Printer Using Metal

Next, the low-volatility solvent removal process begins. The solvent gets extracted in a consistent manner which hardens the material evenly.  This step enables the polymeric phase to begin to stiffen the material. Notaly, this process is more flexible in terms of material and shapes.

VIPS-3D Benefits

This method of 3D printing has some major benefits that industry professionals desire. For one, it enables engineers to scale key factors such as porosity. Additionally, they can spatially tune their creations, which enables the direct printing of functioning multi-material pieces when coupled with multiple materials.

Flexibility

Another major benefit is the added flexibility that VIPS-3d brings to the market. The process enables the use of a huge selection of materials. Engineers have proven the method works well in printing ceramic and metal items. This capability makes it possible to print complex shapes using multiple materials, including ones that leverage ceramic or metallic particles to provide structure.

The adjustability of this process is a huge plus which could help it find market use cases faster. The system enables users to set the inter-filament porosity and the inorganic space-holder. This option enables you to adjust printing conditions. For example, you could decide to make the item lighter and use less material simply by kicking up its porousness during manufacturing.

Economically

One of the main reasons there's so much buzz around this new 3D printing method is that it's more economical than traditional methods. The use of organic materials and new printing methods reduce costs significantly.

Additionally, since the project can adjust porousness, there is less waste or unnecessary ink usage. All of these factors add to the bottom line. For a firm that relies on 3D printing as part of its core business model, these costs make a difference.

Less Infrastructure Required

The researchers' vapor 3D printing process has another added benefit: It requires far less infrastructure to set up, operate, and maintain. The use of non-solvent fluid enables the majority of it to be reclaimed. Additionally, this method of 3D printing uses a lot less electricity than existing methods. The use of the solvent allows the item to be locked into place without the need to reprint each section. As such, it's easier to set up, move, and use.

Room Conditions

Notably, this method of 3d printing can be conducted under regular room conditions. This is a huge advantage for those seeking to print certain types of polymers and metals that can often require heat. VIPS-3D printing of polymeric, metallic, and composite materials can occur at room conditions with consistent results.

Reusable

The VIPS-3D method introduces a solvent reclamation system. This process enables the reuse of the non-solvent multiple times. After each session, the solvent gets removed and collected. This strategy ensures that it doesn’t get into the environment and saves money.

Sustainably Using Vapor-Induced Printing

One of the coolest aspects of this project is the use of eco-friendly liquids. These new 3d printer ink options leverage dissolvable polymer-based options that don't harm the environment. As such, many predict 3D printing as one of the best ways to help reduce environmental impact.

Engineer Team

Notably, the research included mechanical and aerospace engineering professors Yong Huang, Ph.D., and Marc Sole-Gras, Ph.D. Notably, Sole-Gras is the lead author of the piece and was a former student of Dr. Huang. The team has filed for and received two patents as part of their research with the majority of funding for the research originating from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Potential Applications

There are many applications where 3D printing porous materials are crucial to the completion of a task. There are times when you need to make the item porous so that it is lighter, enables air flow, or is more structurally sound. Here are the key industries that this development cold could affect

Healthcare

The creation of porous medical implants or other helpful healthcare items is a perfect example of how this technology could help millions of people live better lives. Already, the researchers have noted its potential in the field of bone tissue engineering.

This sector could see this method used to create realistic implants that match the porousness of other cells in your body. This approach would help to reduce the impact of prosthetics and implants by enabling them to better assimilate within your body.

Biohybrid Robotics

Another field that has a lot to gain from the integration of VIPS-3D is biohybrid robots. These devices are built to mimic or expand on natural mechanical processes. You can think of robots that resemble humans or other animals. They can even meld organic tissue with mechanical processes to accomplish impressive goals

Biohybrid robots are on the rise and for good reason. They could help millions of people. There are already biohybrid robots that help people talk, walk, and in the future, see. The integration of AI has helped boost this industry. Now, VIPS-3D could help make these items lighter, which would improve battery life and portability.

Aerospace

The aerospace industry is another area where porous 3D printing methods thrive. Pourosness is crucial when reducing weight and when discussing aerospace, weight is always a focus. The new method could streamline the creation of lightweight aerospace products on the go.

These 3D printers could one day be used to create replacement parts for a spacecraft. The ability to customize material usage and integrate polymers and metals makes it the ideal solution for these scenarios.

Companies that Could Benefit from Vapor-Induced Printing

There are many industries and businesses that will see direct benefits from this technology if it takes flight. From aerospace to energy and automotive, 3D printing is on the rise. Here are a couple of firms that could leverage VIPS-3D tech to improve their offerings and market positioning.

1. Ansys Inc

Ansys is a US-based engineering simulation software and service provider that has secured a reputation as a pioneering force in the market. The company specializes in simulation services which helps in intricate product designs. The integration of VIPS-3D could help alleviate many of the design challenges its clients face.

Ansys Additive Solutions | Having 3D Printing Problems? Come see Dr. A

Ansys is well-known in the market and is currently the largest engineering simulation company in the world. Its clientele spans the materials, energy, health care, automotive, and aerospace industries. This diverse clientele and demand for its services helped the firm secure continued favorable profit forecasts.

2. Materialise NV

Belgium-based Materialize NV offers 3D printing services to enterprise-level clients. The manufacturer offers both software and printing solutions to a global audience.

30 Years of Meaningful Innovation

It has seen considerable growth this year. Specifically, the firm has seen a  30% increase in revenue due to its success in the medical additive manufacturing sector.

Vapor-Induced 3D Printing – More Durability And Sustainability

When you look at this new method of 3D printing it's easy to see why so many people say it is the future of the industry. Its ability to print multiple materials in complex forms makes it unique. Additionally, its focus on sustainability and economics within the creation process makes it the ideal solution for many companies moving forward.

Learn about other cool 3D printing projects here.

David Hamilton is a full-time journalist and a long-time bitcoinist. He specializes in writing articles on the blockchain. His articles have been published in multiple bitcoin publications including Bitcoinlightning.com